It began as a cool morning in the Arizona desert with horses.
I was attending a three-day horse workshop offered by Martha Beck and Koelle Simpson titled, “How To Makes Things Happen.” and wow, was it about to happen for me in a massive way. I now look back at this moment as a pivotal point in my life when I was heading in one direction and then within moments, shifted to a completely new path. I went from feeling trapped to realizing I had all the power within me to be free.
It amazes me how life works when I pay attention. I read about the workshop on Martha’s website the week before it and thought, “Hmmmm, that sounds interesting, working with horses to make things happen?” The concept intrigued me. Then two days before it began, while hubby and I were enjoying some rare alone time in Tahoe, something inside me said, "you are meant to go." During one of the chair lift rides up the mountain surrounded by glorious views and snow I ran the crazy idea by Lowell. He took a deep breath and said, "so, I'll want to hear all about it!" Thank you, whomever you are out in the universe for giving me such a supportive partner.
The next night I boarded a plane headed for Phoenix for a marvelously surprising three-day journey where I learned amazing lessons from horses, uncovered buried truths about myself and discovered a freedom that rocked my world.
The first night Martha and Koelle sent the twelve of us back to our respective hotels with a homework assignment. We were given a worksheet with several questions and the one at the top read, “Who angers, frustrates, or confuses you and why?" I vividly remember driving the forty minutes back to my hotel asking myself the question but coming up blank. Once back at the hotel, I messed about for hours. I checked email, watched TV and then climbed into bed still drawing a blank. I felt blocked. Little did I know, I was about to blow past that barrier in a big way. At around 11:00pm when my body really wanted to go to sleep (another great avoidance technique) I finally figured it out and the tears started to flow. No quiet tears here. I sobbed, I wailed and I felt grief tear through me deep into my core. Here’s the thought what came to the surface.
“I’m angry and frustrated with Ian because I feel trapped, stuck and frozen”
“Holy *%#@! Did I really just think that? Did I really just write that down on paper? Do I really feel that? Man, that's painful! I’m his mother, I’m not supposed to think that way. I’m a horrible mother!” Massive tears making sense now? Later I would learn these tears are necessary and oh so critical to release my pain and allow the emotion to move through me. I had supressed grief for years. YEARS!!!! I thought I had already grieved since I’d been through quite a bit of therapy. Nope, still more to go. Since that moment I’ve learned a lot about how suppressed feelings can unleash all kinds of havoc in the body in the form of physical pain in addition to the emotional pain. This was my moment to open up to my healing and reconnect with myself, though at the time it truly just felt like hell.
The next morning I felt incredibly fragile, raw and exposed. Martha invited us to share our homework. She worked with a few others before I felt brave enough to speak out loud what I had written the night before. When she turned to me to do her magic where she opens doors and invites you through them something inside me said, “Go for it baby. You are totally safe here.” So I did. I leaped straight in and Martha gently, so very gently and with immense compassion, guided me through my inquiry process.
When I reiterated my painful thought that I felt trapped, stuck and frozen by my son, Ian, she asked questions like, is that true? Can you absolutely know that it is always true? Who do you become when you believe that thought? How does your body feel when you believe that thought? Who would you be without that thought?
I had answers like "yes, it’s true" then "well, hmmm, no I can’t know that it’s absolutely true because I'm here at this workshop not trapped by my son."
Who did I become? This horrible, over controlling, out-of-control mother moving at a frenzied pace trying to run away from the feelings of grief. I did my very best to control my emotions. Ooooo, THAT didn’t get me to my happy place!!!! I was ready to break free.
How did my body feel? Well, I’ve had chronic physical ailments for years that doctors can’t figure out how to help and it’s only worsened in the last several years. My body has been screaming at me trying to get my attention! I’m listening now!!
Who would I be without that thought? Freer, lighter, open, relaxed and able to enjoy the moments with my son. I remember taking a deep breath, and upon exhaling releasing tension and suffering and inhaling relaxation and peace.
The truth I discovered is that my son doesn’t trap me, my THOUGHTS do. I have all the power to change any thoughts. My thoughts represent my perception of reality, my interpretation and no matter how much I believe my thoughts to be true, when I question them, I realize they are purely stories and I can change the story if I don't like the current one I'm telling. So, with this story, instead of being angry and frustrated with Ian I realized I was angry and frustrated with myself because I was feeling trapped, stuck and frozen by my THOUGHT or STORY that I created about Ian having autism. Still with me? I was the one responsible for holding the bars up in front of my face all along and I had all the power to drop those bars and drop my painful story that caused so much emotional and physical suffering. When I opened up to the truth, I discovered there were no walls behind the bars, no walls trapping me in. Freedom suddenly appeared everywhere.
How DID she do it? Martha used a method developed by Byron Katie. To learn more about her work you can visit her website. Byron Katie illuminates light and love from every ounce of her being. As Martha led me through this inquiry process I dropped the bars. I’ve been flying ever since, more like soaring because I’m so much lighter. The burden of that painful thought drained my energy and I felt heavy as though I was walking through deep sand on the beach. The sand sucked me down. Now, I walk lightly on the sand without sinking. I’m open to possibilities that continue to reveal themselves. My relationship with my son has transformed into a beautiful connection of love and respect. I’m letting go of the desire to control everything. I continue to practice that one on a daily basis and the shift inside feels gigantic.
I’m deeply grateful for the experience of my first horse workshop. It is where I discovered my freedom and reconnected with my inner truth. I’m no longer stuck in the sand and it feels peaceful, joyful and full of love. I encourage you to explore the areas in your life where it feels like the sand is sucking you down. Could it be your thoughts that are causing you so much pain? Is it worth asking some questions?
If you’re still with me, first, thank you for allowing me to share my story and I invite you to ask the question Martha and Koelle asked me on that first night.
Who angers, frustrates, or confuses you and why? Then ask yourself these four questions from Byron Katie.
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s always true?
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? How is your thought working for you? How do you feel in your body? I believe our body tells us when our thought is untrue. When we feel discomfort in any form within our body it means our thoughts are confused and it's time to question. Many of us endure great suffering to avoid the truth. What truth are you suppressing?
Who would you be without the thought? If you could drop you story just for a moment and not believe it, who would you be? How would you feel? This is an incredibly important question because it allows you to open up to the possibility of what it would actually feel like not to have that thought, even for a moment. Sometimes this is all you need to get some wiggle room to find other possibilities.
Can you think of another thought that might work better? This is what Byron Katie calls the turnaround. This is where you take your story and turn it to state the opposite and find another thought that is as true or truer than the original thought. It's very important to come up with at least three specific examples of evidence of how the turn around thought is true so your brain will actually believe it. Evidence is key here.
For details on how to turn the thought around, please visit Byron Katie's website page titled, The Work, where she explains the turn around beautifully.
Here's the deal. By asking questions, I opened up an entirely new way to live and perceive my life. Do I continue to have stressful thoughts? Oh yes indeed! I have them each and every day. What I do differently is try to catch them, notice them BEFORE they take over the wheel of my emotional bus. I'm a project in process, forever in process of learning and growing.
I invite you to consider the possibility that it is not the reality of a situation but rather your thoughts about that reality that drives your emotional bus. If you have thoughts that bring you joy and happiness, excellent! Hold on to them. However, if your thoughts result in pain and suffering or cause you to act in a way that you don't desire then consider exploring a less painful, stressful thought that you can believe just as much as your initial thought. You have all the power within yourself to find your freedom. Perhaps begin by asking the question, is it true?